A new variant of malware named ‘Black Rose Lucy’ has begun spreading in the US, trying to extort money from its victims. Targeted at Android smartphones, Black Rose Lucy sends a scary-looking message that claims the owner has committed several crimes.

To make matters worse, the note appears to come from the FBI Cyber Crime Department. Victims are told that the punishment for committing these crimes is a $500 fine that can be paid by supplying their credit card details.

Obviously, these messages are not being sent by the FBI – it’s just another clever scam designed to steal money.

How does Black Rose Lucy spread?

The malware spreads on social networks and instant messaging platforms by encouraging users to download a video player application. Once installed, the app then encrypts various files on the smartphone so that it cannot be easily removed. Other important files, like photographs, may also be encrypted so that the user cannot access them.

Fortunately, Black Rose Lucy does not seem to spread from phone to phone.

What you need to know

Here’s how to avoid becoming a victim of Black Rose Lucy, or any other smartphone malware.

Do not download apps from unknown sources

The most popular Android app store, Google Play, is one of the few official places to download smartphone software. Everything in the app store will have been checked for the presence of malware greatly reducing the risk of becoming the victim of scammers.

Never download apps from unknown websites.

The FBI does not issue “fines”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigate serious national crimes in the USA. FBI agents hunt murderers, organised gangsters and domestic terrorists. On occasions the service is involved in investigating cybercrime – but federal offences are punished by imprisonment. The FBI does not issue fines.

Do not give your credit card details to any person or app claiming to be from the FBI.

Scammers try to confuse and frighten victims

Receiving a message from law enforcement is always worrying. But when it suggests (wrongly) that you have committed a crime, the message becomes terrifying.

Scammers rely on shock and fear because it is very effective. When people are scared, they may not think clearly about the situation and lower their defences. They panic, hand over their credit card details and end up being robbed.

Install mobile anti-malware software

Mobile malware is becoming much cleverer, making it harder for people to spot scams. By installing an anti-malware tool like Panda Android Antivirus your phone can detect and block suspicious activity, dramatically reducing the risk of being robbed.

Keep a backup of your files

Malware is extremely annoying – especially if it encrypts your personal files. But you can recover that information quite quickly if you have a backup – and you don’t have to pay any scammers. Android (and Apple) both have cloud backup options built-in – you should use these functions to protect your data against permanent loss.

Black Rose Lucy is just the latest in a long line of Android malware attacks. Fortunately protecting against infection is relatively simple if you follow these guidelines. You can learn more about Android malware threats in our guide, Do I need Antivirus for Android?.

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